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Attorney for DUI Defendant Warns of ‘Potentially Devastating’ Testimony to Prosecution

Both sides in Peter Lance case meet with judge about a handwriting expert's review of alleged forgeries in Santa Barbara police files

The defense attorney for a Santa Barbara man charged with driving under the influence teased to “potentially devastating” testimony that may emerge at the next court hearing, even as more details of the case were heard in Santa Barbara County Superior Court on Wednesday.

Peter Lance, 63, is facing a misdemeanor DUI charge after being arrested by Santa Barbara police in the early morning hours of Jan. 1.

A freelance writer, Lance authored a lengthy series of articles for the Santa Barbara News-Press about his arrest and his investigation into the credibility of arresting Officer Kasi Beutel. Among Lance’s allegations are claims that his signature and those of other defendants were forged on police report documents.

Beutel and the Santa Barbara Police Department have denied the allegations.

Lance appeared in court Wednesday with his attorney, Darryl Genis, and Judge Brian Hill touched on multiple issues in the court’s morning session. Perhaps the most important revolved around Genis’ requests for the Trombetta waivers given to DUI suspects and whether they were intentionally destroyed by police.

A DUI suspect has the option of providing a blood or urine sample that can be retested later, but by signing the waiver, a suspect gives up that option. Lance alleges that he never saw a waiver or signed one, but that his signature, as well as those of other suspects, was forged.

Whether the original copies of the waiver were destroyed intentionally remains to be seen, and Hill said Santa Barbara police Lt. Dave Whitham explained a bit about the process in his declaration.

The prosecution met with handwriting expert James Blanco on Wednesday afternoon, and Genis said Blanco’s testimony would be essential to Lance’s case. Blanco was among the experts reviewing signatures by Beutel and Lance to determine whether they were written by the same person. Both the prosecution and the defense met with Hill in a sidebar conference about Blanco’s testimony.

“This new revelation is potentially devastating to the prosecution,” Genis said.

Another issue brought up earlier in the hearing centered on whether Genis issuing a subpoena to gather information for the case circumvented discovery laws. Hill granted a motion to quash several subpoenas that had been served to law enforcement officials and sources close to the case. Hill told Genis to issue an informal notice to the District Attorney’s Office, which would provide the information requested for the discovery process.

Two motions also had been filed, one by the prosecution and one by the defense, each asking Hill to hold the other in contempt. Deputy District Attorney Sanford Horowitz said Genis should be held in contempt because of extrajudicial comments he has made in the media and maintains that Genis has violated California Rules of Professional Conduct by doing so.

Hill was dubious that his courtroom was the proper place to hear those allegations, noting that type of complaint should be made to the State Bar. Judges will often issue restraints on attorneys and others involved in criminal trials to prevent them from speaking about the case while it is being tried.

However, Hill said, “it’s hard to make that argument when we don’t even have a trial date.”

Lance is scheduled to be back in court at 10 a.m. Aug. 31.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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